M: And your mother?
B: After a month, she sold whatever little land she had and joined me in Kathmandu, but when I left Pathri, Aama gave me Rs2,000. I bought some meat and ate lavishly for the first few days, but then I quickly ran out of money. I also found out something strange about Kathmandu. The people who said they would help me before I came to the city suddenly had their own problems. And I understood that people in Kathmandu love to say Hi! Hello! to you but when you find yourself at their doorstep, they say, Oh, you must have already eaten. I’ll eat and come. I don’t want to name names, but that happened to me when I went to a pretty well-known poet’s home. I came from a tradition where we would go hungry but always make sure our guests are well fed. In Kathmandu, people closed their doors in your face and ate. Eventually, an old acquaintance from Dharan, Tulsi Shrestha, let me stay in her flat.
M: I guess that’s what cities are: the worst and the best things happen to you within minutes of each other.
B: I spent all my days running from one literary event to another. Believe me when I say, I attended every single one of them. I was hungry and these spaces gave me energy. In those days, I did not think about anything else in my life. Around that time, there was this craze of making a Hong Kong ID and leaving the country. My uncle found four different IDs I could have used, I did not go because I was scared that I would have to give up reciting poems. There were two proposals from lahures in the UK, and I turned both of them down because I knew getting married and going off to the UK would mean, again, that I would not be able to recite my poems. It was a disease. A madness.
M: How did you make ends meet?
B: I started writing for newspapers. To be honest, I became a journalist so that I could feed myself. I would throw out one article a weekend. Rajdhani used to pay Rs1,200 for an article, which was a lot for that time. But my true love had always been poetry. Because of that love and because I was slowly opening my eyes to a society that was rapidly changing after the Peoples’ War, and by the beginning of the second revolution, I was able to write lines like:
Even today, in Pashupati’s banks of death
this heart, emptied of all senses, will spend yet another day staring off –
a cold wall, a night without you
and the life of a stateless person
M: How does a poem come into being?
B: Something has to touch me deeply and sit inside me for a long while, saathi. When I was younger, I used to write like a wild wind, aimless, directionless. But slowly I realised that to be in literature is a huge responsibility. I have to understand the structures of the society I live in, the making of nationhood, love, religion, everything. Only then will anything I write mean something, otherwise, I might as well just open up a small roadside bar with dirty curtains. Like the poem, about an ex-British army man, Khadka Bahadur Limbu, that I wrote. It is something that has been haunting me since I was a little girl and saw my Buwa decay in the aftermath of being returned home with little money, no glory, just pain and nightmares. These men lost their limbs and eyes for a queen who was never theirs. The Nepali government has done nothing about these men and their families. The British government is also quiet. There is a fight that is ongoing and things seem to be moving slowly, but how long has it taken? I have to speak about it. And I cannot speak about it alone, other writers have to speak about it, too.
M: Do poems come to you in Limbu? Do you write in Limbu?
B: I don’t write in Limbu and before I used to think it was my problem, but I realise now that it is the state’s problem. It is a type of oppression from the state that I have to write in Nepali. Even if I wrote in Limbu, the fact that I have to use the Nepali devanagari script, already puts me at a disadvantage.